Mr. Secretary General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Wow – what a great turnout! Despite of what, in German, we call “Schietwetter”...Thank you for coming to celebrate with us! I am told that, right now, we have more people here than the Paulaner-Tent at Oktoberfest!
First, I want to thank our friends from New York City for hosting us in Central Park. You might not know this: But Central Park is the perfect place for Germans to celebrate! It has everything we Germans need:
There’s a beer garden right outside!
There are beautiful oak trees that make for a nice Spaziergang!
There are miles and miles of bike-lanes! Germans love cycling...
Also, Germans love old paintings – so there is one of the world’s best art museums literally inside this park!
But what’s most German about Central Park is this: It is the only public park I know that has traffic lights!
And that’s how you recognize the German tourists in Central Park: Even when there are only trees around – they don’t J-Walk!
The only thing we can’t deal with are the Baseball diamonds. We just don’t get it! Can’t you build some more soccer fields instead?
25 years of German unification! This is a day to be joyful – and a day to be thankful!
It is a day to be joyful, especially when we look back just a little bit further: Mr. Secretary General, this week, we have been commemorating the founding of the United Nations 70 years ago!
The UN Charter was a visionary, a defining moment for mankind. But it didn’t come out of thin air. No, the UN was built on the ruins and battlefields of World War Two.
The UN Charter was humanity’s answer to the inhumanity of war, and to the atrocious crimes of Nazi Germany!
But since 1945, slowly over seven decades, our country has grown back into the heart of the International Community!
We have grown back – because our friends and partners have let us grow back!
That’s why this is also a day to be thankful:
Thankful to the courageous people of Eastern Europe and Eastern Germany who started a peaceful revolution and, as one famous American put it, who “tore down this wall”…
And thankful to our friends and partners who gave our country a chance to rebuild itself, to rebuild trust in others, to build partnerships, to see partnerships turn into friendships – and finally, to reunite as one country!
This story of politics is reflected in millions of human stories – in your stories and in my own.
Take, for example, my dear friend and colleague John Kerry: As a little boy, he cycled through the ruins of Berlin Kurfürstendamm. He looked up at the first big house that was being rebuilt and it had a sign: ‘Supported by the Marshall Plan’!
Or take myself: I went to college in a town not even seventy miles away from the Iron Curtain. Even in 1989 –then, i was lecturing at that same University–, my friends and I didn’t even imagine the tremendous changes that were about to happen a few miles East.
And then, take my daughter today: She is growing up in a reunited Berlin, a Berlin that is nowadays –I am sorry to say to all New Yorkers here- just as cool and just as hipster as New York City is...
And she lives in a country that is:
Firmly embedded in the European Union,
With friends and connections throughout the world,
And even the soccer world champion…
But – ladies and gentlemen – this day of joy and gratitude is also a day to accept our responsibility! We have more conflicts in the world today than I can remember in my entire political lifetime: in the Middle East, in Africa – even on our European continent in Ukraine.
None of these conflicts have quick fixes. But I am convinced: None of them will be solved on the battlefield! So Germany is contributing to the efforts of international diplomacy. We ourselves have been allowed back into the international order – so today we must help to protect and rebuild this order in times of crisis.
Willy Brandt, when he became German chancellor in 1969, put our responsibility in a wonderful phrase. He said: “Wir Deutschen wollen ein Volk guter Nachbarn sein.” - “We Germans want to be a people of good neighbors.” Back then, Willy Brandt addressed this phrase mostly to Poland and France and all other European neighbors who had suffered under Nazi Germany. But today, when I meet a family from Syria who tells me their story that has driven them all the way from Damascus to Berlin, then I find new meaning in Willy Brandt’s sentence. Today, as the world has grown smaller but the problems have not, we want to renew this spirit and we reaffirm:
We Germans want to be a people of good neighbors, to those near and those far!
Thank you, and enjoy the night.